Identifying individuals in the sex trade in healthcare settings

Common signs: 

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes  

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, nervous/paranoid, hypervigilant

  • Exhibits distrust towards the healthcare provider  

  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior when discussing security or law enforcement

  • Anxiety about sexual history or work responsibilities   

  • Avoids eye contact  

  • Appears malnourished

  • Shows signs of repeated exposure to harmful chemicals  

  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture  

  • Lacking basic needs  

  • Signs of branding or “ownership” (tattoos, jewelry)  

  • Excess amounts of cash or new clothing, hair, nails, style  

Lack of control:

  • Few or no personal possessions   

  • Not in control of their own money, financial records, or bank account  

  • Not in control of their own identification documents (ID or passport)  

  • Not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)  

  • Signs of reporting to a controlling person  

  • Illogical relationships (20-year-old patient with a 50-year-old present at appointment)


  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where they are staying/address  

  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or of what city they are in  

  • Loss of sense of time  

  • Inconsistencies in story, signs of trauma  

  • Hotel room keys, provocative clothing, sex toys, condoms

  • Use of vocabulary from “the life”  

Vocabulary from "the life"
Sex buyer Date, trick, john
Trafficker Daddy, boyfriend
Area/street where sex is bought Track, blade, Stroll
People not in the sex trade Squares
Being forced into sex work Turned out
Set amount of money an individual must earn each day Quota
Leaving your pimp Blowin' up